Article Hindi

Roshan Taneja will improvise up there and return in some form, says Satish Shah


Veteran film and television actor Satish Shah remembers his guru with fondness.

Keyur Seta

Roshan Taneja, acting guru to several stalwarts of Hindi cinema, died in Mumbai on Friday after a long illness. Earlier in the year, Taneja, 87, had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

Taneja was the first to teach the acting course at the prestigious Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) in Pune. He later founded his own acting school in Mumbai called, simply, the Roshan Taneja School of Acting.

Among his many students was veteran film and television actor Satish Shah. “He was my guru," Shah told Cinestaan.com. "He didn’t demand respect. He commanded respect. The moment I saw him in FTII, the moment he walked in to take our class, I knew I was being trained under someone very, very special.”

Satish Shah said Taneja was such a fantastic teacher that he is yet to find someone who wasn’t fond of him or didn’t respect him. “In fact, he was more like a father figure to all of us right from the first batch of acting started in 1965 till my batch, when he left in 1976 to form his own school,” he said.

Among the prominent actors who learnt their craft and honed their skills under Taneja are Naseeruddin Shah, the late Om Puri, Shabana Azmi, Anil Kapoor, Jaya Bachchan, Aamir Khan, Madhuri Dixit, Mithun Chakraborty, Asrani, Danny Danzongpa, Govinda, Juhi Chawla, Ajay Devgn, Rani Mukerji, Sanjay Dutt, Saif Ali Khan, Tabu, and Sunny Deol.

Govinda, the comedy king of the 1990s, was among those who attended Roshan Taneja's funeral on Friday. Photo: Shutterbugs Images

Shah said Taneja was a soft-spoken man and he never saw aggression on his face in all these years. “My association with him lasted 44 years from 1974 to 2018. During this time I have never seen him lose his cool, patience or temper. That says a lot. And I have sat quite a lot with him and being a good observer I would know if he had that trait,” he said.

Taneja himself trained in acting at the Stanislavski School of Acting in New York. But things didn’t work out for him as far as his acting career was concerned. So he decided to turn to teaching and took the opportunity in 1965 to become head of the acting department at the newly set-up FTII. “This is how the acting course came into being,” said Shah.

Satish's Shah batch at the FTII was the last to be taught by Taneja and the actor considers himself lucky indeed for the privilege. “If I had delayed admission for a year or two, I wouldn’t have found him," Shah said. "He was the one who started this whole idea of method acting in India through the film institute.”

Recalling Taneja’s specialities, Shah said, “One uncanny speciality of his was that he made every student feel special. This is no joke. Every student, girl of boy, felt that she or he was his favourite. Like everyone else, even I felt that. But who was his favourite? That secret went with him!”

He added, “He made actors out of a lot of people who thought they were not actors. Likewise, maybe a lot of actors who thought they were actors learnt that they weren’t actors.”

Asked to recall one memorable moment from his years with Taneja, Shah said it came during the action problem classes when he would come up with some nuance. “I was more [inclined] towards humour," Shah said. "Once in a while if I did something serious, he would say, ‘You are so good at humour and subtlety, why would you go into the serious thing? If everybody does everything seriously, there is no fun in class'.”

Shah also recalled that Taneja would encourage the students to improvise in class. "I bet he is going to improvise up there and come back and join us in one form or another on this earth,” the actor said of his teacher.